(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a five-part series focused on internationally known music and concert promoter Ashley Capps, a Knoxville native who maintained his passion for his hometown while building a national brand.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Ashley Capps, Founder of AC Entertainment, described last year’s majority acquisition of the company by Live Nation as a “natural progression” in the evolution of the enterprise he created in 1981.
“The business is a lot more difficult today than it was then,” the Knoxville entrepreneur told us. “It’s hard to make a living if you’re (mainly) at the local level. Live Nation has an international footprint.”
Capps had worked with the global entertainment company in the past and ratcheted-up that relationship in 2015 when Live Nation acquired a majority stake in the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. The arrangement advanced further in October 2016 when Live Nation acquired a majority stake in the entire company.
Ironically, Capps says that AC Entertainment’s independence allowed the company to launch Bonnaroo in 2002, but the nature of the business has changed.
“To continue to grow, there needs to be a more strategic partnership,” he explained, adding that he was also at a crossroads personally and at the company.
“I had been independent for 25 years, but independent of what,” Capps asked rhetorically? “It sounds good on paper, but it is difficult. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, but how I did it was less important.”
Good leaders are mindful of succession issues, and those were also a factor for Capps.
“We have a great execution team, but not a successor,” he said. With the Live Nation arrangement, Capps says “the team will outlast me and be part of something larger.”
One senses that one thing that will not change for the native Knoxvillian is the passion he has for his hometown. Managing iconic venues like the Tennessee and Bijou Theaters and hosting the annual Big Ears Festival are clearly his way of showcasing the city while bringing significant music and artistic opportunities to the region’s residents.
As noted in the first article in this series, Capps’ passion and commitment have contributed significantly to advancing the community. Downtown is a thriving area, and the promoter who grew up in Fountain City with a toy phone and 45 rpm record player has been a major part of that transformation.